My Defense of Joe Rogan

First things first so everyone understands what's going on here. BloodyElbow.com does not have an editorial policy that dictates everyone agree with everyone else. Unless it comes from me or Nate and unless it specifically says this is the position of this site, consider it the position of the author who published it. We are not The Weekly Standard or Mother Jones where there is a loose ideological alliance among the staff. We don't censor the legitimate opinions of our writers even when we, the editors, don't necessarily agree with what's being written. That's not the business we are in. If the writer has done their homework and is making a good faith effort to get it right, we publish it.

Second, Joe Rogan is no way, shape or form even remotely homophobic. Rogan has a well-deserved reputation for being eccentric, but reasonable. While steadfast in his beliefs, he's not an ideologue. He also has positively zero record of behaving in way that would indicate he discriminates against others on any kind of basis of race, creed, sex or sexual orientation. Period.

Third, it probably would've been wise for the UFC commentator to choose a word other than "f--got". There are two simple reasons for this. First, there is a silent gay minority of MMA fans who write me with attitudes of lament every time a public figure does or says something that makes them feel marginalized. I've received two such emails about this issue already. While most gay MMA fans probably treated this with no more than an eye roll, others likely did not. I don't pretend to speak for them, but it's my honest conjecture.

Second to the previous point, using the word publicly in 2010 isn't pragmatic or especially wise. In the language and ethos of the UG, there's nothing wrong with what Rogan said. But in real world terms, there certainly is. Even at 106.7 The Fan, the word f--got has been banned from the lexicon of what hosts can say. When I first started there that wasn't the case. It's not that everyone is necessarily on board with the idea that those who use the term are homophobic, it's that we live in a world where those with good and bad intentions police the ranks of celebrated or public figures. If you say it, they are going to hold it against you. Whether their intentions were from the heart to protect a minority community or from a desire to cripple those in power, you're going to get called on it. Why put yourself in a position to get checked especially when it isn't required to get one's point across?

As for the media, there's a lesson to be learned here. Namely, you have to own what you say. Twitter or any other public spaces can often feel like a safe bubble where we can chat with friends with off-color remarks. You cannot. Save that for off the record conversations with persons of trust. You must intellectually own what you publish publicly. No veteran journalist has been exempt from reproach no matter the topic of discussion, but the ones who stick around do so because week-to-week they try to be reasonable. That strategy won't ultimately prevent blowback, but it will save you in the end. There is no substitute for being level-headed and performing adequate due diligence.

Media must also recognize fighters and other celebrated figures are not commodities, play things or resources to be cannibalized for their own ends. Real people living in a world with real life consequences deserve to be treated equitably. That doesn't mean one censors their tongue, but it does mean that the figure in question should not be ravaged for real-time page view monetization or personal brand building. I certainly do not think that's what we did here, but we've all seen this practiced across virtually every site in the MMA space. Fighters, especially those who are media virgins, do not deserve to be protected from themselves. Conversely, they do not exist to be sacrificed on the altar of the online equivalent of ratings. A controversial fighter interview or quote is not a scalp to collect.

But public figures are no more exempt from the rules of exposure than members of the media, MMA or otherwise. With platform and attention comes responsibility. Media have to adhere to that reality as do celebrated figures. To the extent they wander off the plantation, they do so at their own peril.

I hope nothing regrettable happens to Rogan out of this process. I'd hate for there to be any professional consequences or for him to mute his normally charming candor. That's part of his identity. But as innocuous as he may believe his language to be, that's not going to save you in 2010. Nor should it. Especially when there's a simple solution to it all. Just call someone a f-ckhead next time, Joe.

p.s. If anyone on staff disagrees with me, I encourage you to post a rebuttal. We don't censor those here who disagree.

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